Friday, July 31, 2009

A Prayer for #owenmeany Discussion Post

So, chapter six. How's everyone liking the book so far? I really got into this one. I tried to make notes as I was reading, and I'll attempt to make sense of them now. Some are just thoughts, some are observations, and some are questions I had while I was reading. Feel free to comment below!

First thoughts: when I went searching for images, I found the three covers pictured above. My book has the third cover (with the dressmaker's dummy), but I thought it was really interesting that all three highlight a different theme or motif from the novel. Which cover do you have? Do you have a preference? It seemed like the armadillo and the idea of being armless weren't mentioned in the chapter, but it's possible I missed it. They did talk a lot more about the quarry and Owen's visions of his own grave marker.

One of the biggest themes from this chapter (at least, the one that spoke to me the most as a teacher) was education. Harriet Wheelwright has some very decided views of reading and writing:
She was a passionate reader, and she thought that reading was one of the noblest efforts of all; in contrast, she found writing to be a great waste of time -- a childish self-indulgence, even messier than finger-painting -- but she admired reading, which she believed was an unselfish activity that provided information and inspiration. She must have thought it a pity that some poor fools had to waste their lives writing in order for us to have sufficient reading material. (261)
I find it interesting to read about reading and writing. It's very meta for a character in a book (a narrator, no less!) to be pondering the importance - the worthiness - of reading and writing. It's not a major idea in this chapter, but as a reader it struck me, especially when compared to Harriet's almost-immediate love for television. Any thoughts?

Back to the education theme. Noah and Simon are being "saved" by being shipped off to Gravesend Academy, while poor Hester is sent to public school: "The idea that she was not in need of rescuing would surely have insulted her; and the notion that my aunt and uncle might have considered her beyond saving would have hurt her in another way" (269). Up until now, everything we've heard about Hester has been hearsay (from her brothers) or through Johnny's perspective (which we know is skewed, at least as regards Hester). Is she really that bad? It seems to me that she would have gotten a lot more out of a private school education than her brothers did - look how hard she worked to move up a grade, just to prove herself. And what really happened with that boatman in the Caribbean? For that matter, what really happened with Owen after the dance? Given all the religious symbolism, I'm inclined to view her as a sympathetic Magdalene figure, but I haven't read ahead so that may not be the case.

Other things I found interesting:

* Owen's continued anti-Catholicism: fearing the nuns, finding them "unnatural" and calling them "penguins;" using The Voice to change the school's fish on Fridays policy; his contempt for Catholic iconography and relics (while at the same time collecting "relics" of his own - the dummy, the armadillo claws, etc)

* The search for Johnny's father - any guesses as to who he might be? Will Johnny ever find out?

* The relationship between Owen and Harriet - they bond over LIBERACE (?!) and she takes on Tabby's role by getting him properly attired for the Academy

* Owen as a teacher - he stays back a year to help Johnny with his school work and even helps him learn to enjoy reading. He also calls being an English major "easy" (it is!) and I'm assuming that's what helped Johnny decide to become an English teacher.

* When Johnny talks about teaching, he mentions Thomas Hardy. Owen says that Hardy tells you everything you need to know: Tess is doomed, fate is against her. Johnny also talks about foreshadowing re: Hardy and we've seen it used a few times in the book so far. Owen says, "After I'm gone" (319), and when Johnny thinks about him in Canada, it's in past tense. So, I'm assuming something happens to Owen (he did see his own headstone, after all) and have pretty much resigned myself to bawling my eyes out by the end of this book. Anyone else?

* The idea of Owen as a prophet - he had that vision at the Christmas play, he knows that the new headmaster is going to be making big changes - is Owen just really intuitive, or is it something more?

* Owen as the Big Man on Campus - he's the one getting dates (but he'll only double, so you'd better bring a friend for Johnny!), he's influencing the hiring decisions at the Academy through The Voice, and he's not afraid to bite a big dude's toes off in a fight. Oh, and he'll sell you a fake draft card so you can buy beer. Does anyone else find this Owen strange and intimidating?

Anything I forgot? Mention it below! Let's get this discussion goin'!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Tomato Peach Salad

Today's recipe is one of my new favorite things to fix for a quick and easy snack. Plus: it's okay for the Game On! diet. I think...

2 small Roma tomatoes
1 peach
small chunk of mozzarella (I use a boccancini ball)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp mint, chopped
salt and pepper

Chop up the tomatoes, peach, and mozzarella and combine in a bowl. Drizzle with the lime juice and olive oil. Top with the chopped mint and salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy! I've also made it with plums, and it works just as well. It sounds strange, but tastes amazing.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lots o' Links: Comic-Con Wrap-Up Edition

I had so much fun putting together last week's Blog Post BINGO post that I've decided to do it again! This time, it's a collection of links I've been reading about Comic-Con 2009. I couldn't go, so I'm living through the lucky thousands that did.

* First up, the trailer for the new Alice in Wonderland. It's not coming out 'til next year, but I cannot wait:

(via BWE)

* SCI FI Wire has a recap of the Chuck panel. And Jeffster performed!

* Scott Allie discusses the future of Dark Horse Comics. The highlights? More Joss Whedon comics! Including a Dr. Horrible one-shot, a Serenity mini-series focusing on Shepherd Book, a Serenity one-shot written by Patton Oswalt, and a Guild comic written by Felicia Day. Yay!

* I'm not sure how I feel about this movie, but here's three clips from the upcoming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus:

(via Wired)

* Also from Wired, my girl crush Kristen Bell talks about her role in Astro Boy.

* BoingBoing Gadgets has photos of various toys for sale. There are a bunch in this Flickr pool, too.

* And finally, The Park Bench has a recap of the event from a first-timer: Preview Night, Day One, Day Two, Day Three (make sure you check out the video she links to in that one, especially if you're a Doctor Who/Torchwood fan...rowr), and Day Four

I really want to go next year. Who's coming with me? :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

BIP Blog Post BINGO: The links post

This week's challenge for the Blog Improvement Project is another blog post BINGO challenge. I'm not going to get to all 12 of them, but I'm certainly trying. Number one is a link post, so here are a bunch of random things I've found recently that are too wonderful not to share.

* Did you know that the Vatican's newspaper does movie reviews? Even better: they actually liked the new Harry Potter!

* Speaking of Harry, here's an adorable video of Japan's #1 HP fan meeting Daniel Radcliffe:

(via Gawker)

* Anyone else excited about Rock Band: The Beatles? Joystiq has the song list and a video to whet your appetite. (via my friend Luke)

* Star Wars: Uncut is Star Wars, broken down into 15 sec. segments, reshot by fans, and put back together again.

* Weezer goes 8-bit! (via BoingBoing)

* From the "Things That Make Me Go, 'Awww!'" file: an article about a Woodstock couple still together after 40 years. (also via BoingBoing)

* The (new) Doctor in costume. I gotta say, I love the bowtie! I wonder how many of these will show up at Dragon*Con this year...?

* For my fellow Game On! dieters: four myths about staying hydrated.

* After this past Peachtree Road Race, I'm thinking about joining the Atlanta Track Club to help me get serious about running. I don't know if I'll ever work my way up to "marathoner," but here's a list of 11 celebrity marathon runners to help me get motivated.

* If I ever have to get married, I only ask three things: play the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" as I'm walking down the aisle, let me have a karaoke machine at my reception, and please, for the love of God, would someone help me make a wedding video as awesome as this one?!:

Brian & Eileen's Wedding Music Video. from LOCKDOWN projects on Vimeo.

(via i am bored)

* Any other Firefly fans out there? Check out The Browncoats - "The Hero of Canton" does surprisingly well as a pop/punk song.

* There was a bit of a kerfluffle this week when Kindle owners realized that Amazon had deleted their copies of 1984. Here's how to read it anyway.

* Because mocking the Twilight movie never gets old: "Twilight," in a Nutshell.

* And just to bring this full circle, Jimmy Fallon had some clips of DRad and RPatz's YouTube spat:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Music Munday: Mashups!

So...I was debating what to write about for today's Music Munday, and this video showed up in my Google Reader:

Yep, that's Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - two great tastes that taste crazy awesome together! I've been interested in mashups since college, when we all sat around the common room watching Dark Side of Oz (that's The Wizard of Oz on mute and Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," for the uninitiated - and yes, they do sync up rather well). So for today's Music Munday, I'm presenting a few videos of my favorite mashed-up songs for your listening and viewing pleasure. FYI: these videos are uncensored, just in case you're reading this at work or around small children.

First up, a recent classic: The Beatles' "White Album" + Jay-Z's "Black Album" = DJ Danger Mouse's "Grey Album"

If you're heard of mashups at all, it's probably because of "The Grey Album." DJ Danger Mouse actually had some legal problems (99 of them? Gah, sorry, that was bad...) when he first released it online, but luckily he prevailed and it's still available here. You will need bittorent software to download it. I highly recommend it, especially if you're a Beatles or Jay-Z fan.

Next: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" + 50 Cent's "Wanksta" = The Silence Xperiment's "Bohemian Wanksta"

I discovered this mashup a few years ago, and I love it! "Q-Unit's Greatest Hits" are available to listen to/download here. My favorite is "We Will Rock You in the Club," but I couldn't find a video for it.

Here's a few from the same DJ:

Rhianna's "Umbrella" + General Public's "Tenderness" = Party Ben's "Tender Umbrella"

Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" + The Police's "Every Step You Take" = Party Ben's "Every Car You Chase"

Oasis' "Wonderwall" + Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" + Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" = Party Ben's "Boulevard of Flashing Lights"

You can get more info and download tracks (seriously, there are dozens, and they're all pretty awesome) at Party Ben's website.

So, what do you think? If you were going to create your own mashup, what songs/artists would you use? Do you have a favorite mashup that you think I'd enjoy? Let me know!

Music Mundays are hosted by Chris. You can learn more about them here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mini-Review: Colonel Brandon's Diary

I wasn't going to buy any new books (packing up two bookcases + random piles that no longer fit onto the shelves will do it to you), but I saw this in a bookstore last weekend and couldn't resist. I loved Amanda Grange's other Austen retells (Mr. Darcy's Diary, Mr. Knightley's Diary, Captain Wentworth's Diary, and - coming soon to my bookshelves, no doubt - Edmund Bertram's Diary), and Colonel Brandon's Diary was no exception. I'm glad she chose to write from Colonel Brandon's point-of-view, rather than Edward's, because 1) I think Brandon's back story is more interesting, and 2) I really, really enjoyed picturing Alan Rickman as Brandon while I was reading it. (Yes, yes, I know: "He's too old to be Brandon!" I don't care. It's ALAN RICKMAN.)

The story begins when Brandon is a student at Oxford; he reveals his feelings for Eliza, their plans to elope, and the tragic end to their affair. It also covers Brandon's time in India and his military (naval?) career, his relationship with Eliza's daughter (also called Eliza), his friendship with Sir John, and his eventual introduction to the Dashwoods, culminating in the requisite happy ending. I liked the first half of the novel more than the second, I think. It's nice to read such a fleshed-out story about a situation that was mentioned briefly in Sense and Sensibility - it's very similar to what Grange was able to do with the Wentworth/Anne backstory in her retelling of Persuasion. It also sets Brandon up as a big ol' romantic, something that helps make his attention to Marianne more realistic. That's the main reason I really enjoyed this book: the idea of impulsive, wild Marianne settling down with prim and proper Brandon always seemed a bit strange to me. Some of their interaction in the back half of the novel seems a bit off (a sure sign it's time for a re-read of S&S), and Grange's characterization of Brandon (a reciter of poetry and part-time matchmaker!) is...maybe not exactly how I pictured him, but it works.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Waiting On Wednesday: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

I've never done a "Waiting On..." post before, but when I checked my Google Reader this morning (okay - afternoon...I saw The Half-Blood Prince at midnight last night and needed to sleep in to get my seven hours) I found a bunch of posts about a sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I loved.

Are you ready for this?

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters! Heck yes. Although I think Persuasion would've been a better choice for sea monsters (Captain Wentworth, the Lyme Regis trip), I can't wait to read this book.

There's an official book trailer, too:

September 15th can't come fast enough!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Recipe Tuesday: Grilled Asparagus

I started the Game On! diet this morning, so I've been thinking about foods I should and shouldn't be eating. Luckily, one of my favorites, asparagus, is an unlimited green on the food plan, which means I can eat as much of it as I want (but only during meals; otherwise, it's a snacking penalty!). I've experimented with different ways to cook asparagus, and this is one of my favorites.

1 lb asparagus
2 - 3 Tbs olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 - 3 Tbs chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper (optional)

You will also need a plastic baggie (gallon size, with a zip-top), a vegetable peeler, and a grill pan or tabletop grill.

Preheat the grill or grill pan. Rinse the asparagus, and chop off the bottom 1.5 - 2 inches. I usually do the whole bunch at once, if I can. Next, use the vegetable peeler to scrape off the stringy outer layer, leaving the tufty dark green stuff at the top of each spear. Yes, this is time consuming, but it makes a world of difference when you're not picking asparagus bits out of your teeth at the end of the meal. If your shoots are especially skinny, you could probably skip this part if you want. Next, put the asparagus spears in the plastic baggie and add the oil, chopped dill, and lemon juice (salt and pepper, too, if you want). Shake or roll the asparagus to get them fully covered with the oil mixture. Grill the asparagus spears (not in the baggie!) for about five minutes on each side.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Music Munday: Jack Johnson

Does anyone else have certain bands or songs that they tend to listen to only during a special part of the year? My big thing is "summer music." I have several bands that I listen to during the cold, rainy months whenever I want to be reminded about the long, hot days of Summer. These also tend to be the bands that fill my iPod during trips to the beach.

I'm about halfway through my summer vacation (yay, teaching!), so for today's Music Munday, I'm going to talk about one of my favorite "summer music" artists, Jack Johnson. I first heard his music when I was in college; I was chilling at Lakeside, having breakfast, when this music video ("Flake") came on:

For me, it was love at first listen. I'm a sucker for acoustic guitars! I went out and bought his first CD, Brushfire Fairytales, which was full of beautiful melodies and oceanic imagery (probably a result of his surfer-boy Hawaiian upbringing).

This video for "Taylor," starring Ben Stiller, always cracks me up:

There's a better quality video here, but I couldn't imbed it.

This next video is my favorite song off that first album, along with a little explanation from Jack at the beginning:

For the record, I love the "la-da-da-da-da-das."

And finally, those of you with small-ish children right remember Jack's music from the soundtrack to the Curious George movie that came out a few years ago:

How cute is that? :) Jack Johnson has five CDs out now: Brushfire Fairytales, On and On, In Between Dreams, Sleep Through the Static, and Sleep Through the Static: Remixed, in addition to the Curious George soundtrack. All are great for chillaxin' by the pool or at the beach...which is exactly where I'll be listening to them in about a week in a half.

Music Mundays are hosted by Chris. You can learn more about them here.

Playing the game #gameondiet

After following @BethFishReads's, @toofondofbooks's, @myfriendamy's, and @fizzythoughts's progress in The Game On! diet, I decided to take the plunge and start a competition of my own. I bought a copy of the book yesterday and talked my friend/co-worker, Brandi, into doing a one-on-one game. We're going shopping for supplies today and then tomorrow, it's on!

I also picked up a copy of My Weight Loss Coach for my Nintendo DS; between that and my WiiFit, I'll be gamer-girl geeking my way to the top of this competition. I'm not going to review The Game On! Diet book; both Beth F and Dawn (and Amy and softdrink) have done a great job of that already. You can check it out online here if you're interested.

Brandi and I have already decided that if this four weeks goes well, we'll try to recruit some more teachers once school starts back up and get a bigger competition going. Wish us luck!